Increased pressure on embryo may impact facial development: Study

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An embryo in the womb experiencing increased pressure due to fluids may impact facial development, including the risk of malformations, a new research has found.

The study found that an increase in pressure exerted by still fluids, or hydrostatic pressure, sensed by the embryo can hinder the healthy development of facial features. Researchers at the University College, London, UK, said differences in pressure bears the risk of facial malformations.

The researchers performed their analyses in mice and frog embryos, and in lab-grown structures made of human stem cells. Human stem cells cannot perform specific functions to begin with but, with time, self-renew and have the potential to become specialised cells such as those in muscles, blood or brain. These cells are needed for tissue maintenance and also repairs following an injury.

“When an organism is experiencing a change in pressure, all the cells — including the embryo inside the mother — are able to sense it,” said Roberto Mayor, professor of developmental and cellular neurobiology at the University College, London, and lead author of the study, which has been published in the Nature Cell Biology journal.

“Our findings suggest that facial malformations could be influenced not only by genetics but by physical cues in the womb such as pressure,” he said.